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England fan disorder at Euro 2020 final ‘close to claiming lives’

English Football Association (FA) CEO Mark Bullingham today (Friday) apologised for the “terrible experience” many suffered within Wembley Stadium after an independent review stated the “appalling scenes of disorder” which marred the UEFA Euro 2020 final came “perilously close to putting lives at risk”.

The FA announced on July 19 that an independent review led by Baroness Casey of Blackstock had been commissioned following the crowd disorder in the lead-up to the game in London on July 11.

The FA had earlier said that it would carry out a full review and investigation after a number of ticketless fans illegally forced their way into the stadium for the match between England and Italy.

Baroness Casey’s independent review into events surrounding the Euro 2020 final has now been published, with the report concluding that around 2,000 people gained access to the game illegally. It noted that there 17 mass breaches of disabled access gates and emergency fire doors. Only 400 of those who gained entry were able to be ejected by security staff.

“The Euro 2020 final was a potentially glorious national occasion that turned into a day of national shame,” Casey said. “Our team of role models were in our first major final for 55 years. However, they were let down by a horde of ticketless, drunken and drugged-up thugs who chose to abuse innocent, vulnerable and disabled people, as well as police officers, volunteers and Wembley staff, creating an appalling scene of disorder and coming perilously close to putting lives at risk.

“I am clear that the primary responsibility for what went wrong at Wembley that day lies with those who lost control of their own behaviour that day, not with anyone who did their best but lost control of the crowd.

“Nevertheless there are always lessons to be learned and it is right and commendable that the FA have commissioned this thorough review and have fully engaged with it, along with key partners including the Police and local council. No one was fully prepared for what happened that day and it can’t be allowed to happen again.”

Casey’s report noted a “collective failure” in planning, including a “vulnerable” stewarding setup lacking experience partly due to COVID-19, while the police deployment also arrived on the scene “too late”.

Meanwhile, the knowledge that Wembley would only be at around 65,000, instead of its 90,000 capacity, due to COVID-19 restrictions, also contributed to a “perfect storm” of factors. The report also found that an England win in the penalty shoot-out would have resulted in a further “huge public safety risk” with up to 6,000 people planning to storm Wembley after the game to celebrate as the gates opened to allow ticket-holders to leave.

The report said there was “a collective failure” among the organisations who staged the final to plan for the “foreseeable risk” of disorder and the chances of ticketless fans arriving at the stadium.

Among the recommendations in Casey’s report is a new category for football matches “of national significance” to make organisers aware of the unique challenges of such high-profile events. Casey also called on authorities to be empowered to clamp down more strongly on fans using drugs, flares and smoke bombs at matches and around stadiums, and entering venues without a ticket.

An FA campaign to force “a sea-change in attitudes towards supporter behaviours” has also been called for, along with better communication between agencies organising events and the flow of fans to a stadium.

Commenting on the report, Bullingham said: “We commissioned the Casey Review to understand what happened on the evening of the UEFA Euro 2020 Final and to ensure we could learn all the lessons needed to avoid this from ever happening again. We fully accept its findings and there are important learnings for us, as well as other agencies involved.

“The FA apologises for the terrible experience that many suffered within Wembley on what should have been a historic night for the game. Everyone at the FA was appalled at the significant levels of crowd disorder throughout the day on July 11. The review makes clear that the circumstances leading up to the match led to a perfect storm of lawlessness.

“No event is set up to deal with such disgraceful behaviour from thousands of ticketless fans. Collectively we must never allow this to happen again. Baroness Casey is clear that moving forwards, where there is an event of national significance, we and all agencies must view it through a different lens.

“I would like to thank everyone who worked at the match that day. Many people went well above and beyond their roles and performed their duties with courage and determination. This was often at personal risk to themselves. The lessons learned from this review will ensure that fans have a good experience at major international events at Wembley, as they have for many years.”

UEFA also conducted its own probe into the matter and in October ordered the FA to play its next two UEFA competition matches as host association behind closed doors, the second of which is suspended for a probationary period of two years, “for the lack of order and discipline inside and around the stadium”.

The FA was also fined €100,000 (£85,300/$113,100) for the lack of order and discipline inside and around the stadium, for the invasion of the field of play, for throwing of objects and for the disturbances during the national anthems.

Image: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash